Friday, March 7, 2014

The Bridges of Madison County @ The Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Kelli O’Hara and Steven Pasquale enrapture the audience in The Bridges of Madison County.

The Bridges of Madison County tells the story of photographer Robert Kincaid (Steven Pasquale) and his life-changing, four-day love affair with Iowa farm wife Francesca Johnson (Kelli O’Hara). For those that are familiar with the novel or film versions of Bridges of Madison County, it may be a shock to see two people as young as Kelli’O Hara and Steven Pasquale in the roles of Francesca and Robert. This typical coming of "middle” age story is now given a new life and new depth with its younger leads. They are old enough to have experienced life but not yet passed their prime; giving a vibrant sensual energy to this piece.

Kelli O’Hara (The Light in the Piazza) steals hearts as the discontented housewife Francesca. Her sweeping vocals could rival those of angels and immediately engross the audience into Francesca’s soul. You care about her, her dreams, her past and her future. With every movement down to the smallest gesture O’Hara makes, she is Francesca. Her flawless performance is equally matched by Steven Pasquale. Pasquale decorates Robert with a rugged yet sincere charm delivered with swoon worthy vocals. Hunter Foster also gives a note-worthy performance as Francesca’s husband, Bud. Foster finds a delicate balance of arrogance, ignorance and love,giving Bud an inner complexity many actors might err to demonstrate.

Bartlett Sher’s direction for the ensemble is unique. They not only support the story as characters of the small Iowa town, but they remain the prying, peering community as they openly move sets and props. The ensemble is also seated on the side of the stage for the majority of the show. These elements allow the audience to empathize
with Francesca, feeling the fishbowl effect of 1960’s Iowa life.

Jason Robert Brown’s score lends an eclectic blend of music to Bridges. The styles range from songs with a true 1950’s quality, to a Joni Mitchell sound, to a Bluegrass Blues-like number and of course the contemporary Broadway style show stoppers. There are some majestic moments and highlights of this piece are arguably his best work, including “Falling Into You”, “One Second and a Million Miles” and “It All Fades Away”. However, there are also moments where the music or lyrics shackle the momentum of the storyline.

The Bridges of Madison County will make you fall in love with the love of Francesca and Robert and leave your heart aching for more. A must see for any hopeless romantic!

Review By: Staci Morin

Photos By: Joan Marcus

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